Boundaries, Discrimination, and Interethnic Conflict in Xinjiang, China


  • Enze Han Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University



The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region has been afflicted by Uighur political activism and ethnic violence for the past few decades. Interethnic relations between the Uighurs and Han Chinese have been extremely tense. Why is Xinjiang so vulnerable to interethnic violence? Why are intergroup
dynamics between the Uighurs and Han Chinese so volatile? This paper examines Uighur–Han Chinese relations in contemporary Xinjiang and probes conditions that facilitate interethnic violence. Utilizing Fredrik Barth’s approach to ethnicity that emphasizes boundaries, this paper examines in detail how the rigid interethnic boundary between the Uighurs and Han Chinese has been constructed and strengthened in Xinjiang. Perceived differences have generated mutual distrust and discrimination between the two groups that make intergroup communication and understanding difficult and therefore very limited. In situations such as that in Xinjiang, where a rigid intergroup boundary is in place and civic engagements across groups are lacking, intergroup conflict is
extremely hard to avoid.

Author Biography

Enze Han, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University

Ph.D Candidate

Department of Political Science






Focus: Prejudices and Intergroup Differentiation – Within and Between Cultures